It was billed as the title decider of all title deciders, a clash of titans to determine who would go on to win the Premier League, and yet at the end of 90 breathtaking minutes it remains as you were.

Manchester City, for all their attacking intent and brave play, could not find a killer knockout punch against Liverpool and so it will all come down to the final seven games and who can hold their nerve.

The Citizens have the advantage given they retain a one-point lead, but Pep Guardiola will feel his team deserved more, and Jurgen Klopp can still dream of a quadruple after what he described as a "wild" game.

As it turns out, fortune does not always necessarily favour the brave – though credit must also go to Liverpool for themselves contributing to another Premier League classic between these heavyweights.

It became clear an hour before kick-off that Guardiola would be true to his word: City had no intention of playing for a point in the biggest game of a thrilling campaign that had seen the chasers close the gap on the leaders from 14 points to just one heading into this showdown.

With Gabriel Jesus recalled for his first league start since New Year's Day in an attack that also included Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva, City were out for blood against a Liverpool side on a 10-game winning run in the competition.

For a manager now famed for over-thinking his team selection, this was a masterstroke from Guardiola. De Bruyne and Jesus were on the scoresheet, the latter ending a run of 37 shots without scoring in the competition, while Sterling had a goal ruled out for offside by VAR.

But the reward at the end of it all was only a point as Liverpool, who went with the line-up many had been expecting, twice hit back to ensure this enthralling title race has another chapter of drama still to come.

Five minutes was all it took for City's attacking approach to pay off. Moments after Sterling was denied by Alisson from close range, De Bruyne's long-range strike – via a telling deflection off Joel Matip – went in off the post to give the reigning champions lift-off.

That was the 10th goal City have scored in the opening 10 minutes of Premier League games this season, each of the last four netted by De Bruyne in the fifth minute – a remarkable quirk. The outcome when City have taken the lead, regardless of the minute, had always been the same: won 22, drawn none, lost none.

The title race was over, on that basis. Except of course it wasn't.

Diogo Jota's leveller eight minutes later, following brilliant interplay between full-backs Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, had Liverpool back on level terms in a match that lived up to its pre-match billing. Did you really expect anything else?

If the previous omens had been stacked in City's favour, now Liverpool had something similar to cling to given Jota had not lost in any of the previous 32 Premier League games in which he had scored. Make that 33 on a day when Klopp's own selection calls were justified by the final result.

Jota's record was under threat when City continued to probe with more intent than their rivals and regained the lead through Jesus, who got on the end of Joao Cancelo's pass in behind Alexander-Arnold and finished past Alisson.

Trailing in a Premier League game at half-time for the first time in exactly a year, when coming back to beat Aston Villa, Liverpool needed just 46 seconds of the second half to level through a Sadio Mane goal assisted by Mohamed Salah – the Egypt international's 159th Premier League goal involvement for the Reds, a tally only Steven Gerrard (212) can better.

It was the first time City had conceded in the first minute of the second half in a league game since November 2004 against Norwich City, though once again their response did not take long to arrive, albeit with Sterling's finish against his former club rightly ruled out for offside.

That attacking intent remained clear to see when Riyad Mahrez replaced Sterling, rather than a more cautious option being introduced, and the Algeria international twice went close to winning the game when clipping the post from a free-kick and chipping over both Alisson and the crossbar when through on goal from the final act of the game.

And so for all the to-ing and fro-ing, 2-2, and one point the gap between the sides, is how it remained come a full-time whistle that no neutral was ready to hear. A second meeting between these sides this season, a second four-goal thriller, and still there is next to nothing to separate perhaps the two greatest sides in world football.

It sets up a tense and intriguing final six weeks of the season and, the best of all, we get to do it all over again when the sides face off in an FA Cup semi-final next Saturday.

Unlike on this blockbuster day of Premier League football, there has to be a winner at Wembley.

Kevin De Bruyne believes Manchester City had the upper hand in their 2-2 draw with Liverpool as he called on his side to produce similar performances with seven Premier League games left to play.

City needed just five minutes to edge ahead when De Bruyne, via a deflection from Joel Matip and the right post, cannoned in his sixth goal in as many games before Diogo Jota equalised.

Gabriel Jesus restored the lead in the first half for Pep Guardiola's side with his fifth goal in all competitions against Liverpool, only scoring more for City against Everton (eight).

That was the first time Liverpool had trailed at half-time in the league all season, but Sadio Mane levelled immediately after the break at the Etihad Stadium to keep the title race alive.

City remain a point clear of Jurgen Klopp's side and, with a return leg in their Champions League quarter-final with Atletico Madrid and an FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool, De Bruyne urged his team to play as well as they did on Sunday.

"It was hard. I think we played excellent. I know we conceded two goals but the way we played today was very good; we should have scored more but it is what it is and we keep going," the Belgium star told Sky Sports.

"I think we should [have won]. Obviously the way the second half started that is the disappointment but we know in a couple of chances that Liverpool can score.

"We created enough chances to win the game but it didn't happen.

"I think it demonstrated how close it is between the two teams, but we played really well and had the upper hand even if we didn't win – that can happen. This is the way we need to play and approach the other games."

As for whether the clash at the Etihad Stadium would decide the destination of the title, De Bruyne suggested City had not secured the advantage by earning the draw.

"No, I think it is similar. I know a lot of people spoke saying whoever wins the game wins the title, but I don't think either team would think that way – it's way too hard," he responded when asked if the result was decisive.

"The schedule is way too hard for both teams to win all the games, so we're going to try, but I think the way we showed today was the way we need to move forward."

Substitute Riyad Mahrez could have snatched victory in the closing stages but wastefully chipped over, though De Bruyne holds no grudges.

"It's a clear chance, obviously. Riyad chose to chip the goalkeeper and if it goes in it's a wonder goal, but it didn't go in today, so that's it," he said.

Sadio Mane kept Liverpool in the Premier League title hunt with a priceless second-half equaliser in a gripping 2-2 draw with leaders Manchester City.

Jurgen Klopp's side sat 14 points behind City in January, but a 10-game winning run cut the gap to just one point to set up what many billed as a title decider at the Etihad Stadium.

Diogo Jota cancelled out Kevin De Bruyne's opener in an enthralling start, and Mane followed suit swiftly after the interval following Gabriel Jesus' 36th-minute strike.

Neither side could find a winner, with Raheem Sterling seeing a goal disallowed, as Pep Guardiola's side kept their slender lead intact with seven games left to play.

Sterling squandered a glorious chance after five minutes as he was denied by the onrushing Alisson following a square Jesus pass, but City were ahead just seconds later.

De Bruyne profited from a quick Bernardo Silva free-kick before arrowing a left-footed effort home, the ball going in off the right post following a fortuitous deflection off Joel Matip.

Liverpool responded within eight minutes, with Andy Robertson finding Trent Alexander-Arnold, who played the ball back from the far post for Jota to squeeze a low strike under Ederson.

De Bruyne whipped narrowly wide in search of his second before Jesus latched onto a Joao Cancelo cross and coolly finished via the underside of the crossbar.

Mane levelled up within a minute of the second half getting under way, racing onto Mohamed Salah's throughball to slot powerfully past Ederson, who thwarted Jota's prodded effort shortly after.

Sterling thought he had nudged the hosts ahead again, but a VAR check showed the forward was offside when De Bruyne passed the ball, while Salah curled just off target at the other end.

Substitute Riyad Mahrez provided a late scare for the visitors as he clipped the post with a free-kick, and then chipped over after a sublime De Bruyne pass, but there would be no decisive goal.

Pep Guardiola spoke of the "massive influence" that Kevin De Bruyne brings to Manchester City after the Belgian's winner on his 50th Champions League appearance for the club.

City snatched a 1-0 lead to take into the second leg of the quarter-final against Atletico Madrid at the Wanda Metropolitano, with De Bruyne rifling in from substitute Phil Foden's pass in the 70th minute.

The 30-year-old playmaker was heavily involved throughout, but it had looked like being a frustrating night for him before he finished off the excellent throughball from Foden.

Moments before the goal arrived, as Guardiola made a triple change that saw Foden, Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus enter the action, the manager called De Bruyne over to the touchline.

He passed on a word of wisdom or two, and almost in a flash City hit the front in the tie, finally breaching an Atletico defence that had manfully held out against heavy pressure from the hosts in rainy Manchester.

City had 70.5 per cent of possession and Atletico were credited with no shots at the home side's goal. Still, the tie could yet change in Madrid, and City will be thankful talisman De Bruyne, one yellow card short of suspension, was not booked for hacking down Joao Felix in the first half.

Atletico boss Diego Simeone described City as "possibly the best team in the world", but the respect between the superstar coaches is mutual.

"It was a difficult game against a tough opponent," Guardiola said.

He said City were lacking "the right rhythm" at times in the second half, which spurred him to make the changes.

Guardiola said: "It's a good result fortunately. At the end we had one or two more chances with Kevin to score more goals, but even 1-0 or 2-0 to go to Madrid it is always difficult. But good result, we won the game."

Turning his thoughts to De Bruyne, the midfielder who had to hustle as a false nine for a large chunk of the game, Guardiola said: "I think he's in the best moment of the season right now.

"He's sharp, he's quick, he's positive, his influence on our game is massive. He made an exceptional goal in the combination with Phil."

De Bruyne had a game-high five shots, forcing Jan Oblak into a fine save from one free-kick before the goal arrived.

Foden's vision and slick pass to find De Bruyne's run was admirable, almost lifted from the De Bruyne playbook.

"He has a special quality. His first steps are massive," Guardiola told a news conference. "He had the composure to make an incredible assist to Kevin.

"We knew it in the beginning with Gabriel and him, when our game was a little bit flat they could change it when [Atletico] were a bit more tired. With Jack, we could continue to control the game. We did it and they were brilliant."

Guardiola said City needed a presence in attack, with Atletico defending in two lines of five, effectively giving up the idea of scoring themselves.

They had a couple of breaks towards goal, but Ederson was largely a spectator.

"They defend so well, so compact, and so deep," Guardiola said.

"We need the talent like Phil has shown. We were patient because you have to be against these type of teams. They want to be getting you anxious and nervous. You get disorganised a bit and they punish you up front because they have top, top players. They have incredible quality up front.

"They are so good and if you are not attacking in the right way they punish you."

Looking to the second leg next week, Guardiola added: "We will go there not to defend the result, but to try to win the game.

"We have to control our emotions and do what we have to do. They have faced this kind of knockout stages many times... more than us. It will be a good test for us and our maturity in this game."

Rival boss Simeone said he had planned for City to have Foden on the pitch from the first whistle.

The Atletico head coach, who has led his side to two Champions League final defeats, said: "We expected him to play as a starter because he is a very dynamic player.

"He came on in the second half, and any of the three who came on have different characteristics. In the same way that they talked about being patient at half-time, waiting for their moment, we also waited for it. With different weapons, we were both looking for the same thing."

Simeone will now plot for Atletico's home leg, when they will have to show more attacking verve, which could open gaps for City to exploit. City have a tough Premier League assignment to come first when they face title rivals Liverpool on Sunday, and that may help Atletico.

"You always have to come up with something better," Simeone said. "It's a long match, divided into two parts, here and at home. They don't care, they'll play the same way. They're possibly the best team in the world. But with humility we'll compete."

Kevin De Bruyne believes Manchester City were rewarded for their calmness and patience during the Champions League quarter-final first leg 1-0 victory over Atletico Madrid.

De Bruyne marked his 50th appearance for the Citizens in the competition by striking the only goal at the Etihad Stadium.

The Belgium international latched onto Phil Foden's delicious throughball 20 minutes from time, before neatly slotting past Jan Oblak.

City had endured a frustrating first leg as they struggled to break down their opponents' typically stubborn defence.

But their persistence eventually paid off with Pep Guardiola’s side taking a slender lead to Madrid for the return fixture next week.

"It was a very hard game," De Bruyne told BT Sport. "They play so defensively tight and solid; that's their way of playing. I think we played good under the circumstances. 

"They played almost five at the back and five in midfield, so it's very hard to find the spaces.

"You need to be calm, patient, and try to find the spaces. You're going to lose balls because it's so compact, but we had a couple of chances in the second half and managed to get one.

"I expect similar over there [in the second leg]. If the game is tight, they will have to attack a little more."

Diego Simeone's men arrived in Manchester for the second time in a month - having defeated United at Old Trafford in the previous round - protecting a six-match winning streak, and will fancy their chances of turning things around next Wednesday.

Nevertheless, Guardiola insists that the Premier League leaders do not intend to sit back and rest on their laurels at Wanda Metropolitano.

Asked if he was happy with his side's performance, the head coach told BT Sport: "A lot. 

"We played an incredible top side who are difficult to face, but it is a good result. We had chances to score a second and third.

"It is not easy to face a team with a lot of experience in this tournament. 

"We will go there to score and try and win again."

Great art will typically have its back to the wall, and for an hour on Tuesday it was a great artist who stood with his back to a red wall on a rainy night in Manchester, unhappy with his lot.

A promising exhibition was turning into a soggy mess as Kevin De Bruyne had his visionary brushstrokes stripped of their customary colour, the false nine lacking his usual lustre.

But then the narrative flipped, and a 50th Champions League appearance in City colours for this wonderful Belgian footballer had its masterpiece, a finish any genuine number nine would admire from substitute Phil Foden's delicious pass. One-nil, and that was how it stayed, a fine result from a taxing evening.

City manager Pep Guardiola had joked about the perception that he can "overthink" in big games in the build-up to this tussle, and he fooled those who cooked up the team sheet that reckoned on De Bruyne occupying a wide-right midfield role.

Of course he cropped up there at times, on the left too, and at times in the centre of midfield, but De Bruyne spent just as much time as the further City man forward, chasing lost causes, closing down, doing the donkey work.

This latest landmark appearance for City – coming so soon after his 200th Premier League appearance for the leaders on Saturday – ended in triumph where it could have been frustration, or been worse.

You see, sometimes great artists do silly things, like slicing off an ear or headbutting Marco Materazzi, and when De Bruyne chopped down Joao Felix in the 34th minute to cut short an Atletico counter-attack, it looked like being a costly error.

A yellow card was surely coming, and with De Bruyne already a booking away from suspension, City would have lost him for the second leg of this tie. Referee Istvan Kovacs kept the card in his pocket and an incredulous Diego Simeone, the Atletico head coach, had to be asked to cool it by the man with the whistle. Simeone might be known for his histrionics, but this seemed eminently excusable.

De Bruyne has entered the imperial phase of his City career, with records and landmarks stacking up alongside trophies. But the Champions League is the trophy City and De Bruyne want now, and it is the obdurate brilliance of teams such as Atletico that they must find a way past to reach that goal.

When Guardiola substituted Raheem Sterling, Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez in the 68th minute, bringing on Foden, Jack Grealish and Gabriel Jesus, he called De Bruyne over to the touchline too, passing on a word or two of advice. De Bruyne had seen a free-kick well saved by Jan Oblak, but was otherwise being stifled, and when he was not being stifled he was looking thoroughly fed up in the rain.

Barely two minutes after the Pep talk and the goal arrived, local lad Foden with a pass from the gods and the finish doing it justice.

De Bruyne came into this game having made more assists in the Champions League than any other player from an English club since his City debut in the competition in September 2015. To those 17 assists – only Neymar (25), Kylian Mbappe (20) and Angel Di Maria (18) have had more – De Bruyne has now added 11 goals.

Five of his previous 10 had come from outside the box, but this was a striker's goal, running in behind and lashing into the left corner.

A head injury forced De Bruyne to abandon last season's Champions League final, and City will want to be sure he is present and correct should they get through to the showpiece again.

A tricky second leg awaits them next week at the Wanda Metropolitano, then potentially a semi-final. But De Bruyne's strike was as admirable as City's persistence against an Atletico side who repeatedly got every man back inside their final third at the behest of their strutting boss, and it was the sort of result that had the home fans at the Etihad Stadium dreaming once again.

During the international break, De Bruyne and wife Michele took 24 hours away in Paris, and it will be the French capital that stages the Champions League final in May.

City might be there. De Bruyne's time, City's time, might be coming.

Kevin De Bruyne was the hero as Manchester City overcame Atletico Madrid 1-0 in their Champions League quarter-final first leg at the Etihad Stadium.

The Belgium international struck the only goal 20 minutes from time to hand Pep Guardiola's side a narrow advantage heading into the second leg at the Wanda Metropolitano next week.

Atletico had frustrated the Premier League leaders for large periods of the contest on Tuesday with a typically stubborn defensive display.

However, their resistance was finally broken when De Bruyne latched onto Phil Foden's precise throughball, before sliding past Jan Oblak. 

Guardiola had overseen victories in each of City's previous three Champions League matches against Spanish sides.

But despite boasting well over 70 per cent of possession and forcing four corners, the hosts were unable to break down their stubborn opponents before the interval.

City failed to register a single shot on target from six attempts in the first half, with Atletico also making important blocks to deny Joao Cancelo and De Bruyne.

Ilkay Gundogan almost unlocked the Atleti defence, but the skipper was just unable to get Riyad Mahrez's inviting cross under control.

City continued to carry the greater threat after the restart; Oblak getting down well to keep out De Bruyne's free-kick, while Aymeric Laporte headed over from a Mahrez corner.

Guardiola introduced Jack Grealish, Gabriel Jesus and Foden in a bid to find an elusive opening goal.

And the latter made an impact within two minutes of stepping onto the field; producing a perfectly timed pass for De Bruyne, who finished clinically with his right foot from inside the penalty area.

The midfielder then had an effort blocked by former City defender Stefan Savic, but his strike was enough to give City the edge.

Manchester City will go into next week's huge clash with Liverpool with a one-point lead at the Premier League summit after beating Burnley 2-0 to reclaim top spot.

Liverpool defeated Watford by the same scoreline in Saturday's early game to leapfrog the reigning champions, but the Reds' stay in first place was a short one.

Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan netted inside the opening 25 minutes and City sauntered to a 10th consecutive victory over Burnley.

Gabriel Jesus missed chances to add to City's lead, but there was never any danger of a Burnley comeback as City ensured a narrow advantage ahead of Liverpool's trip to the Etihad Stadium on April 10.

Where Jurgen Klopp's men laboured a little in their win against relegation-threatened opponents, City were in control almost from the outset – although Burnley had the first chance, when Josh Brownhill's third-minute header beat Ederson but dropped wide.

City led just over two minutes later, as Raheem Sterling cushioned Rodri's cross into the path of De Bruyne, who thumped high past Nick Pope.

The same two players combined again for City's second, playing a one-two on the right that set Sterling away to tee up a Gundogan shot, which earned a slight deflection off Kevin Long on its way past Pope.

Burnley enjoyed an improved spell following a succession of Pope saves at the start of the second half, but they failed to trouble Ederson in the same way and could have been in three behind when City substitute Jesus volleyed an awkward effort just over.

Jesus would go away wondering how he had not got on the scoresheet after Connor Roberts deflected another volley against the foot of the post, before the forward shot wide on the rebound.

Pep Guardiola said that every game feels like a final after Manchester City stepped up their quest to complete a treble by advancing to the last four of the FA Cup.

The Citizens reached the semi-finals of the competition for the fifth time in six seasons after a commanding 4-1 victory over Southampton at St Mary’s.

Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne were on target either side of an Aymeric Laporte own goal, while substitutes Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez sealed the deal later on.

The Premier League leaders, who also have a Champions League quarter-final clash with Atletico Madrid to look forward to, remain in the hunt for three trophies this season. 

Impressed with the improvement of his side’s performance after the break against the Saints, Guardiola is well aware of the stakes on offer with every game that passes.

The Spaniard told BBC Sport: "For the last 15 [minutes] of the first half, we forgot to play, knowing that this would be difficult because Southampton is one of the best, most organised teams we face all season.

"They push you with incredible intensity, but the goal we conceded was a consequence of us forgetting to play.

"The second half was much better, in personality and play. They had one chance for Che Adams, at 2-1, but the quality of our players up front made the difference.

"It was not a comfortable victory, but now we go into the international break.

"There are two months left in the season, and we are in three competitions. We know every game is a final, and we knew it was important not to lose today."

De Bruyne, who was on target from the penalty spot, believes the third – a stunning 20-yard Foden volley – and fourth goals epitomised the quality that City possess.

And the Belgium international, who was part of the side that lifted the trophy in 2019, has his sights set on doing so again having suffered semi-final defeats in each of the last two seasons.

The midfielder added: "I think the first 20 minutes and the last half an hour, we did well. In between, we made too many stupid mistakes and even with their goal, we should have just played it out – there were 30 seconds to go until half-time.

"We chose the wrong options and Southampton came back into the game. Not a lot was said at half-time, but we had to play better, and we did that.

"But I think the reaction was really good; the second half, we dominated, and we did much better.

"The third and fourth goals were beautiful goals, and we saw then how good we can play.

"We want to win every competition we enter. We have lost in a couple of FA Cup semi-finals, but we are very happy and privileged we go again and hopefully, we can win it this time."

Manchester City failed to restore their six-point lead at the Premier League summit as they were held to a goalless draw at Crystal Palace on Monday.

Palace had been looking to complete a first league double over City since 1987-88 but settled simply for frustrating Pep Guardiola's side, who went the closest to opening the scoring in the first half when Joao Cancelo rattled the woodwork.

Kevin De Bruyne was also denied by the frame of the goal after the interval, with no late winner forthcoming at Selhurst Park.

The stalemate meant City moved just four points clear of second-placed Liverpool, who have a game in hand and are yet to play the champions at the Etihad Stadium.

Michael Olise poked narrowly wide in the opening stages, while Bernardo Silva spurned a glorious chance after Vicente Guaita had spilled a De Bruyne strike at the other end.

De Bruyne then tested Guaita's reactions with an audacious volley, before Cancelo cannoned against the left post with a thunderous long-range effort, with Aymeric Laporte squandering the inviting rebound inside the area.

Riyad Mahrez almost found the top-left corner with a left-footed curler, then De Bruyne struck the right post after the break with his low drive. Guaita tipped over from Mahrez on the follow-up, but a belated offside flag meant a breakthrough goal would not have stood.

Silva wasted another gilt-edged chance to nudge City ahead when he touched wide from Jack Grealish's cross, while Laporte failed to make clean contact with a close-range header late on.

Conor Gallagher could even have stolen victory as his shot from a tight angle rose over Ederson's goal in stoppage time.

Kevin De Bruyne was pleased with how Manchester City responded to Liverpool's win against West Ham, after a "different" Manchester United derby challenge on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp's side closed the gap on Pep Guardiola's Premier League leaders to three points with a 1-0 victory over West Ham on Saturday.

But any sense of concern was quickly quashed when De Bruyne opened the scoring in the Manchester derby at the Etihad Stadium after just five minutes.

That was his 50th goal in the competition, and he soon added a 51st to his name, albeit after Jadon Sancho had levelled up for Ralf Rangnick's visitors.

Belgium international De Bruyne, who became the first City player to score a brace in this league fixture since Sergio Aguero in April 2015, then teed up Riyad Mahrez to put the hosts 3-1 up.

With that assist, De Bruyne recorded his 89th goal involvement in just 100 Premier League home games, spread across his time with Chelsea and predominantly City, and the midfielder was satisfied with his side's 4-1 win. Mahrez had added gloss to the scoreline in the closing stages, firing in off the face of David de Gea.

"I think Man United played differently to other occasions. They tried to press us and did well in the first half," De Bruyne told Sky Sports.

"We had a few more difficulties to get the ball around, but in the second half we created more opportunities."

De Bruyne was unable to explain why City have previously struggled at home to United but done well away, though he was delighted with this result against Rangnick's side.

"I can't explain why we always win over there [Old Trafford] but have more difficulty at home," he said. "Today, we played really well and deserved the three points.

"It's about winning game by game. They [Liverpool] won yesterday, but we responded in the right way. Sometimes we don't get the result, but we always play the right way and we will fight until the end of the season."

Mahrez sealed the derby success with the late strike that took him to 101 goal involvements for City across all competitions. It was his 21st goal of the campaign.

But the Algeria international acknowledged he had to stay patient for his opportunities, after a limited first-half display that saw the majority of chances come down City's left side.

"I think I touched four balls in the first 30 minutes, but in my head, I had to stay focused," Mahrez told Sky Sports.

"The first half was good and they [Man Utd] tried to play on the counter. Second half, we were more patient and more controlled and made the difference."

Discussing his goals, Mahrez added: "The first one, you just have to try and hit the target and the second one, I tried to put it high and it hit his face and went in. I will take both of them."

Guardiola's side will look to protect their lead at the Premier League summit when they travel to Crystal Palace in their next league outing, though Liverpool do still have a game in hand on City.

It was deemed a pivotal match in the title race. Liverpool would have been able to go top of the Premier League table – or at least within a point of it – with a win in their game in hand if Manchester City slipped up in the Manchester derby.

But upon its conclusion at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, it was difficult to imagine Liverpool players doing anything but lifting their jaws off the floor after City blew Manchester United away in stunning fashion, beating Ralf Rangnick's side 4-1.

Not that it always looked likely to be so one-sided. A Cristiano Ronaldo-less United certainly made things interesting at the start, and the absence of the Portuguese forward – due to a hip injury – gave them an enigmatic aura, to some degree.

It emerged on Saturday night that Ronaldo was a doubt when reports began to suggest the Portugal captain had not been present with the rest of the squad at their team hotel.

City would surely have been preparing to face Ronaldo all week, and so United's set-up will have come as something of a shock – even more so when in the early exchanges it looked like the visitors were attempting to go punch-for-punch with the champions, something few teams survive.

In fact, early on there were signs of role reversal. United had spells of possession, City were playing for counters. Under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, counter-attacking became something of a staple for the Red Devils in these fixtures.

But in the absence of Ronaldo, it was as if United were finally playing with a full complement of players, such has been his lack of influence outside the penalty area – you could potentially include inside the area as well given his recent wastefulness.

With Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba supporting wide forwards Jadon Sancho and Anthony Elanga, United looked fluid, intricate and generally dangerous in attack, almost mimicking City's striker-less style for 2021-22, the hosts' fifth-minute opener from Kevin De Bruyne not appearing to upset the away side's flow a great deal.

Jadon Sancho's excellent equaliser showed precisely what United were capable of, as they cut through City and the England international exhibited great composure by skipping around Rodri and curling into the bottom-right corner.

Though by that point, in the 22nd minute, City had already started to get to grips with United's slightly surprising set-up, as Rangnick's men started to show cracks.

In the first 15 minutes, the share of possession was almost 50/50 – over the course of a derby during Pep Guardiola's time in Manchester, United haven't had more than 40 per cent at the Etihad Stadium. But over the following third of the first half, City's share increased to 72.5 per cent, and it was unsurprising to see them regain the lead through De Bruyne just six minutes after Sancho's leveller.

If United were trying to mimic City, the latter were proving themselves to be the real deal.

Pep Guardiola seemingly targeted Aaron Wan-Bissaka – or United's right flank in general – as the weak link, with the right-back struggling to cope as Joao Cancelo, Jack Grealish and Bernardo Silva – even Phil Foden too at times – ganged up on him. City's first two goals originated from that area of the pitch and, in truth, even more could have.

United reached the break just one goal behind, and given their promising start and the open nature of the first period, there was reason to believe a way back wasn't out of the question.

But City were on a different planet after half-time.

Their control of the ball found another level, as did their cohesion when pressing, with United having immense difficulty passing through the City midfield.

Pogba faded into anonymity, Fernandes and Sancho too, while Grealish galloped with joy and De Bruyne ran the show, out-crafting and out-muscling his counterparts at almost every opportunity.

Adding to his brace, the Belgian also played the inch-perfect corner delivery that led to Riyad Mahrez's gorgeous half-volleyed third, which most would have accepted was game over for United. Though fans would have hoped the players weren't of the same opinion.

Yet the response to that 68th-minute goal was non-existent. City had 87 per cent of the ball between the 76th minute and full-time as United just seemed to throw in the towel – the concession of a late fourth to Mahrez was a just punishment for their reaction.

City's performance was a timely and fitting reminder that their superiority cannot be simply copied and pasted.

Rangnick said on Friday that City are an example because every decision in the club revolves around certain ideals and a joint-up philosophical approach to football – the second half on Sunday embodied that as they played United off the park playing the ferocious football they are known for.

Before this weekend, United had been reduced to the role of prospective party-poopers – it's a damning indictment of where they are now that even this was evidently way beyond their capacity.

Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez hit doubles as Manchester City thumped derby rivals Manchester United 4-1 to restore their six-point lead over Liverpool at the Premier League summit.

United had won their previous three games at the Etihad Stadium in all competitions but, without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, they were behind inside five minutes to a close-range De Bruyne strike.

After Jadon Sancho temporarily levelled up against his former club, De Bruyne struck a second to put City back in front before half-time, and then teed up Mahrez for a superb City third in the second half.

United were previously unbeaten in 11 games in normal time in all competitions but conceded a fourth when Mahrez doubled his tally late on, seeing City give themselves some breathing space at the top, albeit with Liverpool holding a game in hand and still having to travel to the Etihad next month.

De Bruyne was left in plenty of space to drill Bernardo Silva's low pass away from David de Gea early on, the Belgium international registering his 50th goal in the competition.

United otherwise made a positive start, despite also being without Raphael Varane, Luke Shaw and Edinson Cavani, and they were level with 22 minutes played.

Sancho was played into space by Paul Pogba and cut inside before sending a delightful curled finish past Ederson from the edge of the 18-yard box.

City restored their lead just six minutes later through De Bruyne, who blasted in after Phil Foden's initial shot was well saved by De Gea and not dealt with by United's defenders.

De Bruyne was again involved when picking out Mahrez from a corner to volley in a third goal for City, and the Algeria international rounded off the scoring in the 90th minute with another crisp finish after VAR judged Alex Telles had played him onside.

Premier League leaders Manchester City collected a routine victory over Brentford to further their advantage at the top.

That victory saw Pep Guardiola's side extend their lead at the summit to 12 points, with second-placed Liverpool due to host Leicester City on Thursday.

Tottenham fell to a late defeat against Southampton as Antonio Conte suffered his first home league loss as Spurs boss, while Aston Villa shared the spoils in a six-goal thriller with Leeds United.

And strugglers Norwich City picked up a valuable draw at home to Crystal Palace, with Dean Smith's side now a point behind 17th-placed Newcastle United as the relegation battle continues.

Here, Stats Perform unpacks the pick of the Opta data from the day's top-flight action.

Manchester City 2-0 Brentford: Citizens cruise to league double over Bees

Strikes either side of the interval from Kevin De Bruyne and Riyad Mahrez helped City to a 2-0 win over Brentford as the Citizens completed the league double over the Bees for the first time since 1936-37.

Mahrez opened the scoring as he netted in his seventh consecutive game across all competitions for City – only Lionel Messi (twice) and Sergio Aguero have previously achieved that feat under Pep Guardiola.

De Bruyne doubled the hosts' lead in the second half, the midfielder recording his 85th goal involvement (35G 50A) in his 96th top-flight appearance at the Etihad Stadium, where he has found the net five times in his last four games.

Brentford rarely troubled Ederson's goal and were caught offside 10 times in the match, the most by a Premier League team since January 2018 as City recorded their 100th clean sheet under Guardiola in the competition.

The Bees have now lost five consecutive league matches for the first time since December 2007, under Terry Butcher in League Two, and for the first time in the top flight since April 1947 (seven in a row).

Tottenham 2-3 Southampton: No home comforts for Conte

Southampton twice rallied from behind to earn a late 3-2 victory at Tottenham to end Conte's unbeaten start at home in the league as Spurs boss.

Jan Bednarek poked into his own net to give Spurs the lead, the centre-back now on a Premier League-high three own goals since the start of 2019-20. Similarly, Tottenham have benefited from the most own goals in the competition this season (three).

But Armando Broja soon levelled up. That was the Albania striker's sixth top-flight goal this term – only Kevin Davies (nine in 1997-98) managed more in the Premier League for Southampton while aged 20 or under.

Son Heung-min restored his side's advantage with his 12th strike against Southampton across all competitions, five more than he has registered against any other team for Spurs.

Saints fought back again, Mohamed Elyounoussi equalising before Che Adams sealed victory. Both finishes were set up by James Ward-Prowse, who assisted two goals in a single Premier League match for only the second time in 290 appearances.

Having equalised in the 79th minute, Southampton's victory was the latest they had been behind in a Premier League match that they would go on to win since March 2016 against Liverpool (equalised in 83rd minute).

Aston Villa 3-3 Leeds United: Whites continue away scoring run in Villa Park classic

Aston Villa, who had Ezri Konsa dismissed late on, shared the points with Leeds in a 3-3 thriller as Dan James, Jacob Ramsey and Philippe Coutinho dominated proceedings.

James scored his third and fourth Premier League goals this term, his best-ever tally in a season, though Marcelo Bielsa found his side 3-2 down at half-time.

Coutinho initially cancelled out James' opener as he became the sixth Villa player to score in each of his first two Premier League appearances at Villa Park, and the first since Carlton Cole in August 2004.

The Brazil international then teed up a Ramsey double as the midfielder became the youngest player to score more than one goal in a Premier League game for Villa (20y 257d) since Luka Moore got a hat-trick in February 2006 (19y 356d).

Diego Llorente restored parity in the second half as Leeds recorded three goals in consecutive Premier League away games for just the second time, and for the first time since March 1995, to earn a valuable point.

Norwich City 1-1 Crystal Palace: Zaha's penalty falter costs poor travelling Eagles

Norwich City raced out the blocks at Carrow Road but ultimately had to settle for a point after a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace.

Teemu Pukki – who has scored 43 per cent of Norwich's top-flight this season (6/14), the highest such share of any player in the competition – netted the fastest goal in the Premier League this season as he finished after just 38 seconds. 

Wilfried Zaha pegged Smith's team back with his 80th goal involvement in England's top division (53G 27A), 79 of which have been for the Eagles.

Michael Olise teed up the Ivory Coast international's second-half equaliser, his seventh goal involvement (3G 4A) across all competitions in 2022 – the most by any Premier League player.

Palace should have secured all three points but Zaha failed from the penalty spot for the first time, on his fifth attempt, meaning the Eagles have won just one of their last 13 away games in the league.

Riyad Mahrez and Kevin De Bruyne made Brentford pay for individual errors as Manchester City secured a 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday. 

After an uneventful opening 30 minutes, City began to bare their teeth and the deadlock was broken when Mahrez curled home a spot-kick after Mads Roerslev clumsily sent Raheem Sterling to ground. 

The reigning champions never really got out of second gear but were gifted another goal when David Raya's misplaced pass was quickly followed by De Bruyne slotting home. 

City consequently increased their advantage over Liverpool to 12 points, though Jurgen Klopp's side are in action against Leicester City on Thursday. 

Brentford were tough to break down, but City gradually began to create more openings, with Sterling volleying over and Aymeric Laporte shading the outside of the post after the half-hour mark. 

The visitors' resistance was finally broken when Roerslev felled Sterling and Mahrez dispatched the resulting penalty into the top-left corner. 

Brentford tried to threaten on the break but never looked like troubling Ederson with Ivan Toney absent due to a calf injury. 

Their hopes of salvaging a draw were effectively extinguished when Raya gave the ball straight to Sterling on the edge of the box. 

Although the Brentford keeper managed to block Sterling's shot, the rebound fell to De Bruyne, who passed the follow-up into the bottom-right corner.

City came under minimal pressure and comfortably saw out the closing stages to get back to winning ways after dropping points at Southampton in their previous Premier League outing.

What does it mean? Further contrasting fortunes 

City completed a league double over Brentford for the first time since 1936-37, the season in which they won their maiden top-flight crown. 

Pep Guardiola's side are now unbeaten in 14 Premier League matches, while the Bees have lost five in a row. The last time they endured a winless streak of that length was in 2007, when they were in League Two. 

A Sterling display 

Although he may not have taken the chances that came his way, Sterling won the penalty and played a pivotal role in the second goal with his high pressing. He also supplied two key passes and drew five fouls – at least three more than anyone else on the pitch. 

No Raya light 

He may have made more saves (five) than he has done before in a single Premier League match, but Raya's woeful distribution ultimately ended Brentford's chances of snatching what would still have been an unlikely point. 

What's next? 

City take on Norwich City at Carrow Road on Saturday, when Brentford entertain Crystal Palace. 

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